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Four of 5 Redmond teens convicted in brutal 2001 killing make Gov. Brown’s commutation list

(Update: Adding video, comments from attorney, then-Deschutes DA)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Four of the five Redmond teens convicted of conspiring to brutally kill Barbara Thomas at her home on the Old Bend-Redmond Highway just over 20 years ago, a notorious case known as the “Redmond Five,” will be eligible to seek parole under Gov. Kate Brown’s new commutation plan.

The attorney for one of the five says it's a good move. But the district attorney at the time doesn't believe it means any of them will be granted parole or early release.

The Oregonian reported Thursday that more than half of the state’s most serious juvenile offenders will be eligible to seek parole or in some cases given conditional release under Brown’s plan. The governor’s office released to the newspaper the names of about 250 offenders who meet the criteria.

The four on the list include Lucretia Karle, who was then 16, Ashley Summers, then 15, and Seth Koch, who was also 15 at the time and who pulled the trigger. Justin Link, then 17, was outside the home at the time, communicating by phone, but was termed the ringleader by prosecutors, while Thomas's son, Adam Thomas, 18 at the time, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

“The vast majority of youth offenders are extremely well-behaved in prison and upon release have shown themselves to be very productive,” said Thaddeus Betz, attorney for Link, who was sentenced to life in prison.

Betz said he believes those who are imprisoned at a young age often had troubled childhoods and are reformed in prison.

“I think once policy-makers look at research and realize that someone who is convicted at a very young age, that spends 20, 30, 40 years in prison, by the time they advance into their middle ages, they really are not a threat to anybody,” Betz said.

The five teens fled in Barbara Thomas's car but were stopped and arrested at the Canadian border.

The juveniles trashed the 52-year-old woman's home while she was at work and considered various methods of killing her, such as injecting her with bleach or electrocuting her in the bathtub. They ended up beating her over the head with champagne bottles before Koch shot her in the head with a rifle.

The action doesn’t automatically mean they are about to be released, The Associated Press reports.

The governor’s commutations earlier this week granted some adults in custody who committed serious crimes as juveniles the opportunity to appear before the Oregon State Board of Parole and Post Prison Supervision to argue for their release after 15 years in prison, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

“I don't think any of us who were close to it -- the detectives, the sheriff, the police, the State Police. I don't think any of us will ever forget it,” said Mike Dugan, who was the Deschutes County district attorney at the time of the killing.

Dugan says he believes the state Parole Board won't grant early releases or parole to any of those who took part in the murder.

"Well, I'm sure that all of us, including myself, would not be happy with the release of any of these people," Dugan said.

“I think the Parole Board will do the right thing,” he added.

The list includes people convicted between 1988 and 2019 for crimes such as murder, assault, rape and manslaughter while juveniles. A 2019 bill made changes to the mandatory minimum sentences for minors sentenced on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

Betz said, “All of these offenders were under the age of 18. Most, if not all, were probably waived into adult court without any consideration for their maturity”

While the legislation was not retroactive, Brown’s commutations effectively apply part of Senate Bill 1008 — known as a "second-look" hearing — to the list of 70 people currently in prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted recent research about juveniles and found they must be treated differently by the criminal justice system, in part because their brains aren’t fully developed at the time when alleged crimes occur.

The governor’s signed order notes “these individuals — initially incarcerated as youth ― are capable of tremendous transformation and, due to the age and immaturity at the time of their offenses and behavior thereafter, should be able to petition for release.”

Aliza Kaplan, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, called the governor’s use of commutations “unprecedented.”

Here's information shared with NewsChannel 21 by an aide to the governor:

Governor Brown believes that we must put more emphasis on preventing crime and rehabilitating youth than on harsh punishments and lengthy and costly prison sentences. We can no longer rely solely on imprisonment as the only solution. Youth should be held accountable for their actions, but the fact is that adolescent brains are still growing and developing, especially in skills such as reasoning, planning, and self-regulation. Yet, too often our criminal justice responses do not take this into account. In particular, Measure 11 removed many routes for young people to demonstrate their capacity for change and positive growth.

Fortunately, SB 1008 opened up a sensible pathway out of imprisonment for youth sentenced as adults. Recognizing that SB 1008 itself was not applied retroactively, the Governor intends to use her constitutional clemency powers to consider youth—on an individualized basis—who didn’t benefit from that legislation.

The Governor’s approach varies slightly for the two distinct groups being considered, but results in these youth getting a similar consideration as their peers—either through a review for potential conditional release or the opportunity for a parole hearing.

For the 214 youth who DOC has determined meet the first set of criteria (was a juvenile at the time of committing the offense for which they are in custody; be serving a sentence that was ordered prior to January 1, 2020; not be serving a sentence for which any convictions are for crimes that were committed as an adult; and has served 50% of their sentence or will have served 50% of their sentence by December 31, 2022), the Governor’s Office will engage in an individualized review process to determine whether the youth has made exemplary progress and if there is considerable evidence of rehabilitation, as well as taking into account input from the DA and victims, if any. If the Governor determines that a commutation is warranted, the youth will be granted a conditional release. We anticipate that these reviews will occur throughout the next several months. The earliest the Governor would make any decisions on conditional releases would likely be in December or January, and the process will continue until a final decision has been made on each case.

For the 78 youth* who DOC has determined meet the second set of criteria (was a juvenile at the time of committing the offense; be serving a sentence that was ordered prior to January 1, 2020; be serving a sentence of fifteen years or more of imprisonment; not be serving a sentence for which any convictions are for crimes that were committed as an adult; and not be serving a sentence with a current projected release date in 2050 or later), the Governor will grant each individual a commutation this week that will allow these youth the opportunity for a parole hearing, as described in ORS 144.397<https://oregon.public.law/statutes/ors_144.397> The commutation will take effect in 45 days, which is the earliest possible date that the Parole Board could schedule a hearing.

To be clear, the Governor is not making any decision to conditionally release these youth; that discretion lies with the Parole Board in these cases. Victims and their families will receive notifications in accordance with the standard victim notification procedures for commutations, and they will have an opportunity to participate in the hearing process.

*This number will be updated this week because the list from DOC contained individuals who have since been released.

Author Profile Photo

Leslie Cano

Leslie Cano is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Leslie here.

KTVZ news sources

The Associated Press

Comments

77 Comments

    1. This is insane. But not surprising. Brown has criminals for bedfellows. I lived just down the road from Barb when that happened. I thought they would rot in prison.

    1. ” I can’t wait till 2022 when she is gone ”

      I can’t wait. Unfortunately we will probably end up with someone just as bad
      thanks to all of the liberals in the valley, and the ones that have landed
      in C.O…

      1. you are correct if we don’t get out the vote. Brown won by 70 some thousand votes, there were over 100 thousand of us on the east side who did not vote.

    1. The odds of that happening are slim to none. Statistics have shown that the
      majority of criminals continue their life of crime after they are released.
      Anyone that commits a crime as violent as this was has serious mental issues,
      and there is no fixing that.

  1. Remember “backwards day” from elementary school? The day where left is right, up is down and fast is slow? Well it is like its backwards day every day in Oregon. There’s a jaw dropping example daily in the news regarding this state and its leaders.

  2. No kidding. How sad for the victim’s family. I am not a Kate Brown hater by any means but this is a horrible decision by someone who continually shows she is just in over her head..

    1. She is NOT in “over her head”. She knows EXACTLY what she is doing when breaking LAWS and the constitution of Oregon as well as that of America. KATE is NOT a GOOD HUMAN let alone a descent Governor.

  3. Kate Brown once again showing us her contempt for the rule of law. There is absolutely no good reason for these disgusting criminals to be set free.

    1. ” Kate Brown should be locked up. This is just crazy.”

      She should have been locked up a long time ago for her complete dismal of the law,
      and for her continued aiding and abetting of illegals…
      The only people Brown cares about are illegals and felons.

      1. I agree Mike338Cancel. She treats illegals and gang members like delicate lovely FLOWERS of nature; and the average, hard-working LEGAL OREGONIAN is treated like manure. She wants all of those who WORK (or with her horrible MANDATES which are NOT laws) she is forcing hundreds of thousands of our MOST CRITICAL highly trained professionals to lose their jobs and even the professions. Little Brownshirt is evil.

        1. DING DING DING we have a winner. An article that has nothing to do with Trump or the federal government and the first thing you bring up is Trump. Your prize is a lifesize cutout of Trump for your room. Congratulations on being today’s winner!

        2. Hey moderators you show your true colors letting a post like this go through. Ridiculous ! We who lived here when this horrific crime happened remember. Letting these murderers go free after what they did is unconscionable. And pretty sure Trump being brought into any conversation on this topic is the same. Journalism is DEAD!

          1. People bring up the current president in unrelated topics as well. I covered their trial. Interviewed Ashley Summers and Judge Brady. I don’t hear anyone defending what they did. There’s only one moderator, and journalism is alive and well despite the critics.

  4. There it is, seems like whenever Beetlejuice, whitmer or now hochul get in the news for something brown tries to get media attention. Sure she’ll argue it was 20 years ago they’ve changed and we should give em that chance that everyone changes 😕. The fifth teenager is most likely going what about me, if there’s a press conference with these 4 they’ll put on an Oscar performance with the crocodile tears. Let’s 👀 how Barney or one of the lib supporters spin this into how we are the close minded monsters.

  5. These are now 35-38 year old prison hardened adults! Another scary thing to think about is these 4 people might not even be the worst ones they are setting free! I wonder what the other 250 people on the list did to find themselves in prison? I don’t care what side of the fence you are on. EVERYONE should have a problem with this.

  6. I admit, I agree with the majority of the comments on this subject.
    These 4 cold blooded murdereres should never be let out of prison for what they did, this is not justice.
    The poor victim suffered before she was killed.
    Kate messed up on this one.

  7. Folks, please calm down and quit with the vigilante talk. There is no suggestion in the article or the Governor’s announcement that these people will be released immediately. It only says that some of the people on the list may be conditionally released and most will be allowed to apply for parole. I looked at the list and the great majority of the people on the list were not convicted of homicide but of other Measure 11 crimes. Neither Link or Koch were eligible for parole so I suspect that the Governor’s decision is in line with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said that a life without parole sentence for a juvenile violated the 8th amendment in most cases. Thus, I believe that all these 4 individuals will probably get is a chance for parole someday, which could be years away. It is my recollection that the two young women were sentenced to Life with a 25 year minimum, so they would be eligible to apply for parole in a couple of years any way. If you still feel strongly then go to their parole hearing when it happens and make your feelings known or if they are released, which is doubtful, then go scream at the Governor

    1. You are seriously WRONG.

      These are extra-legal commutations, not “releases by the parole board.”

      They could walk free tomorrow or next year. The fact is the Governor has specifically labeled these killers, long adults, as felons she plans on granting commutation to before her term is up in 14 months. She’s a lame duck.

  8. I think everyone who wrote here, their family’s friends all should call Kate Browns office and let her know we the people say no on these peoples release, enough of us can do something.

    1. I don’t disagree with people calling her office. Unfortunately the message would
      probably never get past the receptionists desk. Even if the message did make it to Brown,
      she doesn’t care what some people think. She doesn’t even think that she has to follow
      our laws, and the will of the voters…

  9. I worked at the Deschutes County juvenile justice center and supervised all the teens daily the entire time they were in custody in Deschutes County. I remember having them in custody like it was yesterday. Honestly, the two females and Seth were just clueless teens. They had no comprehension on what transpired. When they came into the facility, they were all laughing, glad to be home back in Bend. Planning on attending summer school because they missed a couple months, planning welcoming home parties and were excited to see their families again. There is no excuse for what they did to Mrs Thomas. All I can say is that pure evil was there in that Mobil home that night. I don’t think in their hearts that those three were bad kids in their heart. I can’t speak about Adam because he was an adult. I have other thoughts about Justin and I would rather keep them to myself.

    1. BendguyCancel, oh please just clueless teens who committed a horrendous crime, NOT one of them tried to stop the murder or turn themselves or friends in after committing the crime. My sympathy goes to the family and friends of the victim. As far as I am concerned the lot of them can rot in their self made hell, not let out to possibly do harm to another unsuspecting family.

    2. They were “bad kids” and they will always have “bad hearts”. We were all teenagers and many of us made poor choices. Few of us plan a murder and then follow through. I also worked at DCJCJ and am surprised that you believe they were just “clueless teens”. Plotting murder and then following through?! Wow. Did you plan a murder when you were a kid? I doubt it. There are crimes for which there is no redemption. This is one. These people had their opportunity to be members of society and they blew it. There should be no possibility of release. And on a side note, DCJCJ is a joke. They have no consequences for serious repeat offenders, yet they don’t hesitate to bring in low risk offenders. It’s a pathetic attempt to justify there own existence by increasing case load numbers and unfortunately, stigmatizing low risk offenders. It’s a sad place.

    3. Clueless teens ? Wow… They may have been teens but they were far from clueless,
      unless they had serious mental disabilities. The fact that you say they were laughing
      when they came into the facility speaks volumes about what they were really like.
      Normal people don’t commit murder, and they certainly wouldn’t laugh and plan parties
      after being charged with a violent murder.

  10. This is great firing state employees for not getting a shot for the “good” of the community releasing murders must be for the “good” of the community. Lol. Set them all free I’m on my way out of this state. The liberal voters of Oregon deserve this.

    1. cb, I get where you are coming from and our entire family is looking at leaving Oregon due to how it is changing for the worse. But remember there are a lot of good people here that do not like what is happening any more than you do and many of them do not have the option of leaving for various reasons. Let’s not wish bad on them. It’s already tough enough. Good luck in your new state. May it be all you want it to be.

  11. All I can say is that this story made my stomach turn. So unbelievably cruel to the family and friends of that women to consider commuting these individuals. Evil is evil.

    1. Actually, The Oregonian story linked here notes that the governor’s criteria does not apply to people convicted of crimes as juveniles whose projected release dates are in 2050 or later, so Kip Kinkel isn’t among the group. We also linked to the full list.

    1. “The majority wanted this and they voted for it! You’re getting what you voted for, so quit complaining and accept it!”

      And the same people that voted her in office, will still think that she is
      doing an incredible job, and no doubt support the early release of violent
      murderers and other felons.

    2. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I doubt most Kate Brown voters are in favor of this. Most people, even liberal hacks, aren’t for murderers walking the streets.

        1. Classic comment from a Trumper, someone who still supports a godless narcissistic sociopathic lying moron who tried to overthrow the government, and still is. Look in the mirror before calling others stupid.

        2. That’s right lot of people feel so violated over last four years even though wasn’t directed at them that’d they would support anything the other side brings up. I know it’s Brown’s suggestion these 4 get out and won’t likely happen. How as soon as someone says anything disparaging about the left Barney is right on them and it’s an attack on modern day values. Anyone attacks the right is perfectly ok.😕

    1. Did Barney propose this? NO! Did Mayor Wheeler propose this? NO! Tell me again, who proposed this? KATE! This is squarely in her lap and the laps of those that elected her . . . and that include you!

    2. The article refers to the governor multiple times. Brown wants the problems that oregon is facing, she is directly evolved, she is the governor. People like you don’t seem to believe in responsibility, she is governor, she is responsible for the state and what the state does. Duh!

  12. Sad article to be reading. Bad (insanely bad) choices should have extreme consequences. Stupid that “we” keep reconsidering this stuff. Brain development, etc is very important to understand, educate about, etc. But it shouldn’t remove accountability for those who already crossed a line way too far. Who cares why they made a terrible choice; they threw away their lives and others … no reason for society to anything but move on and leave them permanently out of circulation.

  13. Did anyone actually read the story. It says the chance of THESE people being released is probably not going to happen. Kate didn’t sign a law saying THESE people would be released. Calm down folks.

    1. Your point is well taken. Some on this site have poor reading skills and others have low emotional intelligence. I think the prevailing sentiment is that legislation should not be enacted that gives individuals who commit particularly heinous crimes against individuals or society even the chance for parole. Core human nature recognizes that some crimes are so over the top that ‘justice’ should be retribution (death or life imprisonment) not rehabilitation.

  14. People please read the article. These people are not being released, and are unlikely to be. This only allows those convicted as minors to be eligible for a parole hearing. Reading KTVZ comments always depresses me about the intelligence of my fellow citizens.

    1. Not likely to?

      I have bad news. Anyone she grants clemency to is CERTAIN to be released. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next year.

      Denial is not a river in Egypt.

  15. With all due respect to you, I don’t see how you could possibly make that statement based on my post. Other than telling people to calm down, I took no position on the possible release of these people nor did I take any position on the Governor’s decision. I merely pointed out what I believe to be facts, not fiction. Now if you want to judge me because I believe public discourse should be guided by objective facts and not hyperbole, emotion and vague political generalities such as all Democrats are commies or all Republicans are racist Facists, then I am guilty as charged. Barney, there was a post (now apparently deleted) that advocated vigilante action if the defendants were released and that is what I reacted to.

  16. Are they out of their minds? These monsters conducted a Manson-level gore-killing and they are going to let them out?! They were a modern day Manson Family!

    Its a shame this case didnt make national news because maybe it could have helped prevent this. No one is gonna be safe!

  17. This is Oregon where criminals win and the law-abiding, tax-paying citizens lose. That said, if any of these murderers hurt anyone from here on out, Brown will own it.

  18. More shameful conduct by lame-duck Governor Brown, operating hand in hand with the non-DA, John Hummel, angling for the top federal prosecutor’s job in Portland. It is the job of the DA to stand up for victims, particularly when judges have handed down long sentences. Brown knew Hummel wouldn’t say a word. By contrast NONE of the juveniles that were convicted in Clatsop County from 1995 to 2018 are slated for release. The DA sets the tone, or not.

    Voters last affirmed Measure by 74%, but the bare number of legislators needed overturned that part of the law that allows 17 years olds to be prosecuted as adults. Senate Bill 2008 betrayed Oregonians, but could only affect future cases.
    Now Brown is using her executive power to spit in the face again.

    Senator Betsy Johnson, who is from Central Oregon, is running for Governor, would
    reverse this pro-criminal course

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